Currently women workers are disproportionately affected due to the ill impacts of construction activities but lack representation in the conversation around the topic.
The study was part of a bigger campaigned called “Help Delhi Breathe” and included mobilisation activities, and focused group discussions (FGDs) done among 390 female construction workers in the Bakkarwala, Gokulpuri, and Sawda Ghevra areas of the national capital from August 2021 to April 2022.
The idea was to assess women workers’ knowledge acquisition, attitudinal change, and behavioural modification regarding air pollution. The two parts of the study – baseline and endline – focused on ‘pre-and post-campaign perception change’ among the women construction workers.
The study focused on the urgent need to bring affected communities, such as women construction workers, to the heart of decision-making on air pollution to ensure there are equitable, sustainable, and long-term solutions.
The survey on the perception of women construction workers on issues concerning air pollution urges the government and civil society to do more for the construction workers as 87% of them were not aware of the actions and efforts taken by the two to mitigate the impact of bad air quality.
The women told the surveyors that they expect the government to take urgent steps to mitigate the impact of climate change and air pollution on vulnerable communities, even as 68% of the respondents believe that a focus on pollution may limit their employment opportunities.
When the air quality became poor, nearly 75% of respondents reported feeling sick and uncomfortable, and more than 73% of women reported problems with breathing, asthma, coughing, skin allergy, redness, or eye irritation. A whopping 96 percent of respondents stated that the air pollution affected them to a large extent.
The workers believed that the local governments—MCD and the state government should step up waste reduction and collection mechanisms to lessen the impact of air pollution on the people.
Around 93 percent of the respondents felt that public transportation systems should be improved so that more middle class people shun their personal vehicles and cars to commute, as 80 percent of the respondents felt that motor vehicles are the primary source of pollution in the national capital.
Among the key findings, the survey found that female workers’ awareness of air pollution increased by 21 percentage points during the six-month campaign, rising from 76 percent to 97 percent.The findings provide ground for launching similar campaigns across the country to build awareness of climate change and air pollution.
The percentage of women stating that government bodies actively implemented precautionary measures increased from 13 percent to 17 percent.
A greater number of respondents (60%) were willing to take responsibility for mitigating the impact of air pollution as compared to the baseline (46%).
About 15 percent of respondents were forced to take their children to the construction sites as no one was at home to take care of them. The focus group discussion revealed that women are now more cautious about their little children and do not allow them to play in the mud. They also make it a point to keep their infants in baskets covered with cloth.
The major challenges faced by female construction workers were lack of toilet facilities, lack of potable water, air pollution, long working hours, having to work under extreme weather conditions, corruption at work, workplace harassment, sexual harassment etc.
More than 90 percent of the female construction workers informed us that they stopped burning waste/garbage after being a part of the awareness activities.